Patriots 2009 Draft Grades: Wide Receiver earns an A... for 2010

North Carolina's Brandon Tate (87) brings down a touchdown pass next to James Madison's Jamaris Sanders (1)

If Bill Belichick loves a project, loves to coach up players and loves getting the most bang for his drafting bucks, then the 2009 Draft was a huge success.

After trading out of the 1st round, ultimately turning their 23rd overall pick over to Green Bay in exchange for the 83rd overall pick, the Patriots selected North Carolina wide receiver Brandon Tate.  Projected to go in the first round and rated by the experts as a top ten receiver, Tate's value dropped after tearing two ligaments in his right knee during his senior year and testing positive for marijuana use during the Combine.  One "Belichick Special" coming up.

The injury brought a close to his college career, but Tate was highly regarded by North Carolina head coach Butch Davis.

"The good news is that he will be back, and he will recover from this. I shared with him that two of the best receivers that I ever had the opportunity to be around as a coach both had equally significantly damaging injuries," Davis said on the injury to Tate, referring to his experiences with former Miami stars Michael Irvin and Reggie Wayne.

Here's how the Draft experts at NFL.com and draftcountdown.com sum him up:

Why he will succeed:

  • Long lean build, can high-point passes over smaller CBs.
  • Good quickness, size and hand strength to get off line of scrimmage against press coverage.  Good acceleration.
  • Emerging route runner with quick feet and balance to ultimately be quite good in this area. 
  • Elusive in the open field and has the vision to set up blocks.
  • Able to separate and be a vertical threat.
  • Soft hands.
  • Good body control and flexibility to contort body for poorly thrown pass.
  • Can extend to make the diving grab.
  • Excellent returns with NFL ability for punt and kickoff returns.

Why he might fail:

  • Torn ACL and MCL in October means he won't be able to answer questions about  his straight-line speed.
  • Primarily a return specialist until flashing as a receiver as a senior.
  • A bit raw as a route runner, relies on athletic ability rather than precise footwork.
  • Lets too many passes get into his pads.
  • Needs to add some weight and bulk up.

Most praised for his sensational return abilities, Tate could turn out to be what Bethel Johnson never quite was, and who the Patriots are still hoping Matthew Slater will become.

With the wide receiver postion already a bit top heavy for 2009, Belichick has the luxury of red-shirting Tate for the season, placing him on IR where he will have time to fully rehab his knee, build some bulk under the guidance of the Patriots' trainers, and learn the playbook without taking up a precious roster spot.  Sounds like a win-win all around.

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